Archaeologists discover 1,800-year-old military Medusa medal

Medusa means guardian in Ancient Greek and her likeness was depicted on shields and weapons in ancient times.

 Medusa by Caravaggio. (photo credit: PICRYL)
Medusa by Caravaggio.
(photo credit: PICRYL)

A 1,800-year-old military medal with the head of Medusa on it was discovered by archaeologists in Turkey on Monday.

In Greek mythology, Medusa is one of the three Gorgons. According to myth, Medusa has hair made of serpents and turns anyone who looks at her into stone.

The mythology tells of how Athena, the goddess of wisdom, put Medusa's head on her shield and breastplate after she had been beheaded, but she isn't the only goddess to be depicted this way. Zeus, king of Olympus and other gods such as Ares, god of war, were also depicted with Medusa emblazoned on their shields.

Why was Medusa depicted on armor and shields?

As such, Medusa was traditionally depicted on the armor and shields of Roman emperors and generals because her name means "guardian" in Ancient Greek.

“The medal with a Medusa head appears as an award given to a soldier for his success,” said the Director of the Adiyaman Museum Mehmet Alkan. 

 Perseus holds the head of Medusa (credit: RAWPIXEL) Perseus holds the head of Medusa (credit: RAWPIXEL)

“It is a medal that a soldier wears on his shield during a military ceremony," he added.

"We found a 1,800-year-old military diploma here during the excavations last year, and we also associate the medal with military service.”

Mehmet Alkan

The medal was found in the city of Perre which is one of the five big cities that were part of the ancient Greco-Iranian kingdom of Commagene.